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As the evenings lengthen towards the summer solstice I hope you have been able to enjoy some time outside in the garden. This is the time of year when your garden furniture comes into its own so if yours is tired or past its best it might be time to think about investing in some new pieces. As a firm believer in the benefits of sitting down and enjoying the garden as much as possible, I look upon outdoor furniture as one of the most valuable investments in your garden, and it’s often overlooked in favour of hard landscaping and plants when planning your space. This is why I always include advice on the best furniture as an integral part of a garden design.
If you’re tempted to give roses a try after reading last week’s Gardenwise, or indeed to expand your collection if you’re already a rose grower, it might be useful to talk about the different kinds of rose plant you’ll find available if you visit your local garden centre. I really do believe that there’s a rose for every garden and would hate to be without them. One of my favourite things in summer is to cut a few blooms for the house, often plonking them informally into a jam jar or drinking glass and leaving them where I can inhale their heavenly scent.
My garden design clients are often nervous about growing roses in their gardens as there’s a perception that they take a lot of maintenance and “you have to spray them a lot”. This is really not so. Certainly if you want a really, really low maintenance garden, there’s a host of other shrubs you can use to give you structure, colour and interest all year round. To get the best from roses, an occasional prune and feed does make a difference – although those are easier to do than you might think.
A visit to your local garden centre at this time of year is a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon – or indeed any other day of the week, when you may find it less crowded! You will be spoiled for choice as this is when the selection of summer bedding plants is at its very best, and if you buy your plants at a garden centre rather than a supermarket, you will find qualified staff on hand to help and advise you, so you can choose the plants that suit your needs best and get advice on how to plant and care for them too.
As I write the tulips are making a wonderful show in the garden and every time I look out the window they lift the spirits. They have to be one of my favourite flowers, both for growing and cutting and I could never have too many. Which is just as well, as in our climate they are the least reliable of spring bulbs – hence the diva reputation. For every dozen you plant, eleven or twelve will perform beautifully the following spring, but in the year after that you would be lucky if two or three bother to show up.
How can you tell when spring has arrived? Easy – you will know when the weeds start growing! As spring has been unusually late this year, growth has been very slow to start, but everyone is quickly making up for lost time. If you can get on top of weeds in the garden around now, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy later on.
“Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow”. – Jerry Herman, “Hello Dolly”
If you’re thinking of growing sweet peas or indeed any climbing plants in the border you’re going to need some kind of structure to support the plants as they grow. There are lots to choose from and the supports themselves can make a visual statement in the garden and contribute to the overall look and feel of the space.
Planting out sweet peas is one of my favourite spring tasks in the garden and very easy to do. If you have sown your sweet peas from seed under cover, you can usually plant them outside from around mid-April onwards depending on the weather. Do take care this year though as spring has been very late to arrive and temperatures this month can be freezing or very warm, so err on the side of caution – they will quickly make up for lost time so wait a week or two if you’re in doubt. Sowing from seed gives you the best choice of varieties, but good garden centres will have young plants in pots or trays that you can also plant out now.
As we talked about garden boundary options last week, you might like to hear about some climbing plants that can be used to good effect around the perimeters of the garden. A word of warning first though – when I’m called in to design garden plans, clients often assume that planting climbers is a good way to disguise an unattractive boundary. It can work, but you have to be careful, as you could end up drawing attention to the very feature you’re anxious to conceal.